BELEN—Members of the Belen Art League found a way to continue generating revenue for the organization while keeping themselves and their customers safe — by holding an online auction.
Belen Art League President Jo’l Moore said the idea came back in April after one of their members, Nancy Diodati-Miller, created a Facebook group, My Art League Friends, so members could stay in touch during the COVID-19 quarantine.
“Somewhere around that same time, she told me she thought the art league should get a PayPal account,” Moore said. “Now here’s the thing about Nancy, her mind works non-stop with ideas multiplying faster than bunnies. Nancy has several online businesses that do really well and she had all sorts of ideas of how we could promote our gallery and sell our art.”
Moore said by the time July rolled around, she was concerned about bringing in money to cover monthly bills. Under normal circumstances, the organization would hold fundraisers like its Paint ’n Sip events and Mad Hatter Tea.
Memberships cost $35 a year, and the BAL keeps 20 percent of commission of all sales more than $10.
“I had done a number of paintings for Paint ’n Sip ideas and I decided to set up a sale room in the back of the gallery — the classroom,” Moore said. “On July 17, I took about 25 of my pieces down and arranged them, ever so artistically, and put very low prices on them, some as low as $15, none over $25. I stuck an ‘art sale’ sign in our frontyard. The first day we sold five of these pieces and the next day three.”
Diodati-Miller visited the display and took pictures of the pieces and prices to post on the Facebook group. The next day, two pieces had already been sold online. Immediately afterward, Diodati-Miller and Moore set up the PayPal account.
“Two days later, by July 31 we had sold $427 of online art, mostly enough to pay our bills for the month of July. A number of buyers didn’t come in until the first few days of August to pay for their items, so August was already off to a good start,” Moore said.
Soon after, a man named Ron Anderson visited the gallery and said his wife, Laura, had been an art league member but had died last year and he wanted to know if they would like her art collection.
“This was such a ‘praise Jesus’ moment because there was no way I could keep that room stocked with donated art,” Moore said. “The next week he brought in maybe 50 pieces of art ranging from pieces done by some of our members — past and present — to high-end posters expensively matted and framed.” The members had planned a Tumbleweed Festival for June and were going to have an artist-designed denim jacket auction before businesses began to shut down and operate at a smaller capacity.
“We have about 25 jackets that have been painted, embroidered, glittered and glitzed. From Sept. 17-20, we are going to hold an online jacket auction. We will have the jackets modeled by kids and members,” Moore said.
When the art auctions started at the end of July, the organization had 76 members, now there are 180.
“Things are moving so fast that I’m feeling kind of scared,” Moore said. “Our gallery is small and we’re about to out grow it. The old city hall next door would be a great gallery space but needs tons of money for upgrading. Let’s work on that next.”
Future auctions will be on the first Thursday through Sunday of every month. For more information, call 861-0217 or visit BelenArtLeague.com.
According to their website, the Belen Art League is composed of people who share an interest in promoting and encouraging art in all its forms-oil, acrylic, pastel, photography, pottery and many others. It allows the opportunity to show and sell work in a gallery run by members, and to take part in community and special activities as a way to present and sell art.
The Belen Art League Gallery and Gifts, 509 Becker Ave., Belen, is open from noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Masks are required to enter the building, and they have some there for sale.